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waste free me - the good stuff is in here

Stories and experiences of living waste free. Articles to help you get waste free too! 

Everything Food Waste

Waste Free Bee

Everything Food Waste

In this post:

  • What to do with all those food scraps - solutions to all kinds of spaces.
  • The pros and cons of five different food waste options.
  • See which company is taking some of our 'too hard' basket items and will give us $$ in return. Yes. $$
  • Awesome initiatives to reduce your waste and improve your carbon footprint.

Hi and welcome to week 5 and 6 of getting waste free. Lets talk FOOD.

Mmm, get in my face!

Mmm, get in my face!

Its clear that human will always have a long standing love affair with their food. We all like to visit a restaurant and be surprised with a delicious meal that we won't or can't make ourselves. Often we spend huge amounts of money on food at home. Some say the kitchen is the heart of the house.

Entire TV series are dedicated to watching people grow food, cook food, eat food, judge food and...waste food. Yep. Where their is an abundance of food you often find waste. We love food so much that we select the choicest parts and are willing to waste huge quantities of still edible food that just happens to be the wrong size, colour, shape or a few days older than our new food. Hmm something doesn't make sense here.  

Did you know Aussies throw out 8 million kgs of edible food every year! World-wide we are tossing gut wrenching amounts of food away, up to 50% of total food production. ALMOST HALF! (Yes, we are yelling in capital letters as that number is just horrifying.)

Many people throw food scraps into landfill rubbish believing it will quickly break down into soil. Unfortunately for our environment, this is far from the case.  Microorganisms need wet, airy soil conditions to transform organic waste into the wonderful, nutrient rich compost that we can use to boost our gardens. In contrast, landfill sites are compacted and kept dry to minimise toxic liquids that leach in to the environment.

This means that the left over scrap from your dinner last night can take HUNDREDS OF YEARS to break down in landfill. Anything that can go rotten in your fridge or outside in the weather; food scraps, garden clippings, paper, cardboard, poop etc. will contribute to one of the most potent greenhouse gas we humans are responsible for. Methane.

Food Waste in Landfill

Methane is produced from your rotting dinner at landfill sites and also through coal-mining, rice paddies and cow farts. It is well over 20 times more potent that carbon dioxide (car exhaust farts) as an environmentally destructive gas.

The good news is there are many alternatives to tossing your scraps in the bin. By establishing some smart food habits you can quickly reduce or eliminate your food waste.

Shopping list

If you do nothing else do this:

SHOP SMART. Planning your meals is often praised as a great way to reduce waste.  If you shop like Bee does (used to!) you’ll head to the shop hungry, without a list and buy a random selection of goods that sometimes go together and often don’t. You’ll have the beginnings of four or five separate meals and all will require another trip to the market to fetch ingredients to make a complete meal.

If you shop like Nic, you’ll identify a few recipes, make a list of ingredients and go find them all at once.  Even if it's the only thing you do to reduce your waste, just shop like Nic. 

STORE SMART. Sometimes, we still find herbs and veggies that have escaped notice and hide in the back of the fridge suddenly turning to slime. Check out this list from foodwise of commonly wasted foods to see if you are storing your food correctly. Find out where you can adopt waste saving habits and save money in the process.   

Dinner is ready for weeks! 

Dinner is ready for weeks! 

MAKE FREEZABLE LEFTOVERS. Plan to make some meals that freeze well each week such as curries, pasta sauces and stews. Cook a larger quantity and dish it all out into freezable packs to save your time, effort, money and, of course, minimise waste. Winning on so many levels! Check out these 65 recipes that are great for the freezer. 

Many of you are already great at these three things already and the trouble starts when you don’t have somewhere convenient to put all your food scraps.

Here at El Rancho Wasteless (aka our waste free house) we are testing several methods for ease of use. We have:

  • Chickens
  • Worms
  • Compost

See the pros and cons of each below. 

CHICKENS. Meet the girls! We have eight chooks who eat all kinds of food scraps, turning them into eggs and manure. They are funny and delightful companions! We love watching them just to see how they express their individual temperaments and watch the odd drama unfold in the pecking order. Who needs TV when you have chooks.

Learn more about keeping chickens here.

Pros:

  • Delicious, nutritious eggs that just keep on arriving!
  • Chickens will eat meat scraps that you can’t otherwise compost. A dog will also do this but not give you eggs back. Lucky for dogs they are cute little freeloaders. 
  • Chickens are delightful to keep and are wonderful for teaching children about nature.
  • Also a handy source of organic home-grown meat, if you are up for the killing part.

Cons:

  • The messy little ladies poop everywhere you let them go.
  • Noisy – chickens have laying needs and a social structure that required bouts of loud communication.
  • Constant maintenance to check for correct feeding, watering and maintaining health.
  • They need some space but not a huge amount. 
The start of our second heap. 

The start of our second heap. 

COMPOST. We now have two compost heaps that take in all out garden clippings and lots of paper, food and general biodegradable scraps. The plan is to alternate heaps to produce some extra protein for our chickens and lots of nutrient rich earth for our garden beds. Learn more about composting here.

Pros:

  • Large amounts of garden and kitchen waste can be processed at once.
  • Produces nutrient rich material to boost soil health.
  • Can produce ‘biota’, an alternative protein source for chickens to reduce the need for buying chicken feed.   

Cons:

  • Needs space 
  • Needs time to do it’s work. Composting times vary according to many factors therefore needs monitoring weekly.  
  • Can 'spoil' if not set up/maintained well and be a bit stinky. 
  • Compost needs to be turned every now and again.  
Worm Farms.JPG

WORMS. We have three worm farms, one as a dedicated experiment to compost the kitty litter, one experimental vertical worm farm to see if it is a viable solution for small spaces (read detail below) and one regular little worm box that is reliably processing out kitchen scraps.  Learn more about keeping worm here.  

Pros:

  • Fast breakdown of scraps.
  • Low cost.
  • Minimal smell when done correctly. Can be done indoors!

Cons:

  • Limited scraps you can feed them. Avoid large amounts of citrus, onion, dairy and meat in your worm farm. 

We are fortunate to have the space to put in so many options to process our food waste so the problem here is more one of not having enough green waste to feed all of our systems.

“If I don’t have the space for any of these, what can I do?”

If you are in an apartment, office or house with minimal yard, here are some great options for you.

Bokashi

BOKASHI. Bokashi systems are celebrated as an odourless way to deal with your food scraps. Bokashi is a fermentation system that quickly converts your scraps into pickled scraps otherwise known as a ‘pre-compost’. You then need to identify a place to bury the pickles scraps in earth. This is where the final composting will happen, very quickly converting the pickle into compost.

The materials needed to set up are easily available online and some health food stores  or with a little research you can make your own. Except for the fermenting ‘bran’, we haven’t figured out how to make that...yet.  Bokashi can process most food waste, including dairy, citrus and meat.  

Pros:

  • The convenient bucket can be inside and produce no smell.
  • Fast breakdown of scraps keep the bucket from filling too quickly.
  • Add meat and dairy and citrus!
  • The fermenting juice needs to be drawn off every other day but can be directly poured onto pot plant and garden beds.  

Cons:

  • The contents need to be buried in earth when the bucket is full. 
  • Ongoing cost of the bokashi bran.

We are yet to try bokashi but it is on the plans for a test run soon! Watch this space.

This is a worm skyscraper. 

This is a worm skyscraper. 

VERTICAL WORM FARM. This is a work farm and planter box all in one. The worms munch away on your scraps and leave ‘castings’ on the lower level of the tower. You then plant herbs or flowers directly into the castings, watch them flourish with all that nutrition and harvest fresh herbs for your cooking. As you add scraps, the worms move up the tower and you keep planting into the lower levels.

Apparently, one tower at approximately one foot square will process one years worth of scraps for one adult. We are currently testing this claim and will release a tutorial this week on building one.

Pros:

Very small space required.

  • Can be done indoors away from direct sunlight.
  • Very low cost.
  • Low maitentence.
  • Fast and effective with minimal smell.
  • Reduces waste from store bought herbs as you have them growing near your kitchen.

Cons:

  • Not much. Just testing the claim of how much will process so watch this space.   

There are so many ways to eliminates food waste surely one can be a fit for your lifestyle. If you have circumstances that prevent you from using any of these systems, please let us know! We are happy to do further research into solutions that can fit every life style.

Reduce your waste and carbon footprint with these awesome initiatives!  

We finally found a solution to some seriously pesky waste items in that have been in our ‘too hard’ basket. There are some amazing things happening in this world so let’s support their success.  

TERRACYCLE: TerraCycle is a company that collects a range of waste items that you would normally throw away. Coffee pods, dental products and cigarette butts are all on the list. Better still they pay for your postage! In case you aren't already completely impressed (tough crowd huh) they give you money to contribute to your school or favorite charity. All you need to do is register, collect and send. Easy! We love TerraCycle as they are taking dental floss out of our 'too hard' basket. YAY!

From their website: “TerraCycle is on a mission to eliminate the idea of waste. We do this by creating waste collection programs (each one is called a “Brigade”) for previously non-recyclable, or difficult-to-recycle, waste. The collected waste is then converted into new products, ranging from recycled park benches to upcycled backpacks.”

ONE MILLION WOMEN: 1 Million Women is a movement reaching for the goal of having 1 million people pledge to reduce their carbon foot print by cutting one tonne of carbon dioxide out of their life over one year.

Their website if a refreshing and liberating journey that supports those who join up to reduce their footprint. It’s free to join their carbon challenge and you’ll get an awe inspiring array of actionable hints and tips to live greener.

After you pledge your carbon challenge look for ‘Waste Free Me’ in the groups available and join us in this wonderful initiative!

1 million women is targeted at the ladies because they apparently make 85% of the household purchases. Guys, don’t for one second think you are exempt. You can also join the challenge and please encourage all the women in your lives to do the same!      

From their website: “If 1 million women all make one better choice, however small, it leads to real change. We are a community of women acting on climate change. Together, our choices and how we live make us powerful! Our goal is to inspire 1 million women to take practical action on climate change...Every woman who joins has a personal goal to cut a min 1 tonne of CO2 from their daily lives within a year of joining the campaign.”

TuShare: Tushare is an Australian online sharing site where you can post up your unwanted goods and nominate thing you want from other peoples stuff. It’s a bit like a cashless Gumtree. You nominate an item you wish to acquire from someone else then you can choose to either pick up or pay postage to your home. If you want to give away your stuff, you post a photo and description and then say if it’s available for pick up, post or both. The array of good people are giving away on this is just amazing! Beds, appliances, clothes, artworks the list goes on.

From their website: “TuShare is a place for people to share their pre-loved and pre-owned things for free. Our mission is to make sharing easy, by providing a service that is personal, friendly and useful. Through the joy of giving, TuShare can help you save money, declutter and protect the environment. Sharing is also scientifically proven to make us happy.”

Everyone wins. So what are you waiting for? Sign up today and start sharing. 

WASTE WEIGH IN NUMBER 4  

Total household waste recorded this fortnight was 17.87 kgs with 13.46 kg saved from going into landfill. We are seeing a reduction in the total amount of waste we are producing too which is very encouraging!

  • 6.8 kg food waste
  • 4.41 kg Recycling
  • 280 gm Soft plastic packaging
  • 6.38 kg Kitty litter

The 'too hard' basket

the 'too hard' basket 3

Only ONE item made it into the 'too hard' basket. Bee has been extra clumsy this past few weeks and broke three glasses. (Glasses that have lasted 5 years as a full set dammit!) You may be wondering why the glasses are not going into the recycling bin. Sadly, drinking glasses along with ceramic plates and other kitchen wear is made differently to bottle and jar glass.

Kitchen wear is tempered to be longer lasting and strong and melts at a different temperature to regular glass. This means it cannot go into regular glass recycling, a common mistake many of us easily make. 

We will likely run into a the same problem if we break a plate as well. Please comment below or contact us if you know of some way to recycle/reuse ceramic, tough glass or other kitchen wear. 

Next time we will be delving into some areas of waste that may make you run for the hills. The questions about being waste free that Bee gets asked first all the time...

Yep. You guessed it. How does waste free work for feminine hygiene? Don't bail out now fellas. There are a few items men need to use on occasion (or frequently) that always end up in the bin. 

Don't forget to share this blog with others, like and comment below. 

Until then, take care of yourselves, and your surrounds. 

Nic and Bee.